Sure the idea of a vacation is to de-stress, relax, and enjoy one another’s company. Is there such a thing as relaxation when you have a toddler though?
Camping with a tot is definitely going to come with some challenges. The rise in blood pressure is almost visible. They’re mobile, they’re not yet potty-trained, they’re not old enough to know what NOT to put in their mouths, and they’re predictably UNpredictable. However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a night under the stars with the family.
With a little preparation, a night in the wilderness, listening to the crickets chirping and the campfire crackling can very well be a joyful experience. Okay, okay, I just said the word “campfire” and now all you can picture is your toddler chasing the floating embers. But with some of my helpful hints … I hope to help ease your mind a little bit when it comes to camping with your tot.
Attempt the tent … in the backyard
Try out the tent in the backyard first before heading out for the first time. It’s a great way to get accustomed to sleeping under the stars. Call the neighbors and invite them over for some smores and campfire stories. If it doesn’t go well … at least you tried and you’ll know to wait a year.
Research the campground
If all goes well with the backyard campout and you want to brave a campground, do your research first. Find out if there is a grocery store nearby, a restaurant, or possibly even a hotel. Busy campgrounds can be stressful for you and/or your toddler. Choosing a less busy weekend to camp (as opposed to Memorial and Labor Day weekends) will offer a calmer environment for your little one.
Find out what the campground has to offer. My family prefers campgrounds with additional amenities such as a nearby lake, hiking trails, playgrounds, and clean, sanitized restrooms with running water.
Besides all the necessary camping equipment like linens and flashlights, I’ve come up with a checklist that my family uses for our camping trips. You know your toddler best but hopefully my list will help you make your list a littler easier…
- Extra clothes: You never know when the marshmallow is going to drip down on his/her shirt attracting every bug and critter in the wild. Or when your toddler is going to dump a cup of water over his/her head. Or when the dirt looks better on his/her pants than on the ground.
- Make sure to bring different clothes for changing climates. While it may be 90 during the day, some areas could very well get down into the low 50’s or 40’s at night.
- Extra diaper wipes: Camping is not a very clean experience. Feet will be grimy. Hands will get sticky. And faces will get dirty. Wipes will come in handy not only for your toddler, but for you as well.
- Camping first aid kit: Antibacterial cream/spray, Band-Aids (all different sizes), peroxide, insect repellent, tweezers, pain reliever, thermometer, sunscreen, moleskin (in case of blisters), medicine for stings, and hydrocortisone cream.
- Snacks: You know what your toddler likes to eat and what s/he doesn’t like to eat. Just make sure it’s nonperishable and easy for on the go.
- Favorite toys: It will help settle down at night for the toddler to have something comforting and familiar from home.
- Toys for tots: Bubbles, cars and trucks, sand toys and buckets, sidewalk chalk, a net to catch butterflies, and balls. If you have room, pack easy to hang tree swing and/or trike if there’s paved roads.
- Pack-N-Play: Easy to store, easy to setup, and makes it easy to contain your toddler.
Stick to bedtime rituals
Some toddlers can be very sensitive about their routines and don’t tolerate changes in their environment very well. Incorporate expected customs around sleep like washing your tot close to their normal time, read books, play, snuggle, etc.
Be aware of nearby dangers
Toddlers like to explore. Their curiosity is at it’s highest especially when put in a different environment. Keep a watchful eye on your campsite. Campfires, lakes and/or streams, and dense woods can all pose danger to a wandering toddler.
Worst case scenario – Your toddler hates camping
The new noises are frightening, they’re too hot or too cold, the campfire smoke makes them sneeze or burns their eyes, and they really would just rather be inside than out. Know that you have options. Book a room at the nearby hotel, sit in the car or drive around until your toddler calms down, or pack it up and go home.
If you enjoy nature and camping, don’t be discouraged to bring your toddler. Having the family together is the most important (and best) part of a camping trip. Sure it’s going to be a challenge…but what isn’t with life with a toddler?
Did I miss something? Let me know what you have done to make camping with your toddler a success by commenting below.
Follow me on Twitter for more tips and techniques on traveling with a toddler as well as my personal rants and raves at: @Amanda_AKA_Mom